"BE NOT AFRAID! HE IS RISEN! HE IS NOT HERE! SEE THE PLACE WHERE THEY LAID HIM!"
Those women that morning were numb with fear and amazement. They arose early that first day of the week in order to seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. Grief filled their hearts. So much had happened they can hardly comprehend it all.
But of one thing they are sure: Jesus is dead; his body is lying in Joseph's tomb. They watched him die on that terrible cross. They witnessed the piercing of his side, and standing afar off, they saw Joseph andNicodemus tenderly carry his body to the tomb.
Jesus is dead...never to return. Their hopes are dashed. Quietly in the early dawn they make their way to the tomb to anoint his dead body. One thing concerns them, and they are discussing the matter: who shall roll away the stone from the door? As they approach, they see that the stone was rolled away! Now what? Then they see a young man clothed in white, an angel we learn from the other accounts.
This is the resurrection gospel. He is risen. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus who was crucified. But you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus who was crucified. But you are looking in the wrong place. He is not here. He is risen. Look at the place where they laid him. The grave clothes are there, but Jesus is not. Do not be afraid. There's nothing to fear anymore. He was crucified for your sins. You are forgiven and life everlasting with God is yours.
Tell his disciples and Peter. Be sure to tell Peter. Peter, who denied his Lord, needs to know that he is risen according to his own word. He especially who had fallen into the depths of sin having denied his Lord must be comforted. Peter needs the assurance of the resurrection gospel, that all his sins are forgiven through the blood of the Lord he denied. Peter must know that he has nothing to fear because Jesus is not here, but is risen to life everlasting.
It is to that comforting word of the risen Christ that we shall listen today. It is the word of Christ the angel speaks to Peter and to all of his own who sorrow over their sins.
This is a word of reminder as is evident from the last part of the text,” ...as He said unto you.” This takes us back to the night of Jesus' betrayal (Mark 14). At that time Jesus told the disciples of his impending death and suffering at the hands of sinful men. The Savior warned them, “all ye shall be offended because of me this night, for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.”
Moreover, the Lord singled out Peter for special attention, "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." Very seriously the Lord meant to warn Peter of a severe temptation he is about to encounter. Satan is going to attack you, Peter, but I have prayed for you. All of you, Jesus said, are going to be offended, but after I am risen again I will go before you into Galilee.
But Peter didn't heed the warning! Instead he began to boast, "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended." Then Jesus said, "Peter before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." Still refusing the warning Peter says, "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee."
Thus Peter had distinguished himself from the rest of the disciples. It's true they all had the same attitude, but Peter separates himself above the others. Even though the whole world is offended and I only am left, I will not be offended, Peter had boasted. He flatly contradicted the word of the Savior, "I will never deny thee.” And, he seals it all with these written words: "I am ready to go with thee into prison and into death." You don't have to suffer and die for me. You don't have to pray for me. I will never deny you!
Oh how deeply Peter fell from this boasting! Jesus was betrayed and brought before the High Priest; Peter followed afar off, entered the Courtyard, and was warming himself near the fire when a young lady asked, "Aren't you one of his disciples? Peter denied Jesus. Twice more he denied his Lord; the third time cursing and swearing, he said, "I know not the man."
In the hour of his Master's humiliating trial, Peter denies him. A shameful, cowardly denial it was, not before the overpowering forces of the enemy, nor did it come after a hard and bitter struggle to remain faithful. At the first question of a young girl, Peter denied his Lord.
Peter had distinguished himself again! First by his proud boasting and refusal to take seriously the Lord's warning. Now by shamefully denying his Savior and swearing that he had and wanted no part with Jesus!
Now comes the message of the risen Lord through the angel and the women, "Tell my disciples, and Peter."
How that must have cut Peter to the heart reminding him of that awful night of denial. No, Peter had not forgotten. Jesus saw to that. Even while Peter denies, Jesus continued to pray that his faith fail not. That prayer of Christ worked to save the miserable disciple from the destruction into which he would cast himself. And so Peter had gone out and wept the bitter tears of repentance. We can readily understand that the following two days had brought him no peace. Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried. And all Peter has left is his terrible denial. He must have been plagued, at the point of despair. His sin was continually before him.
Tell my disciples...and Peter. Now the Lord distinguishes him. And Peter, he needs to know too, he denied me.
That's the first message of the resurrection gospel. Before anything else the gospel always reminds us of our sins. And just as with Peter, the gospel comes to us personally. It doesn't come to us to tell us all about how others sin and deny the Lord. It says to you and it says to me, YOU are the sinner. There can be no resurrection joy apart from sorrow over our sins. The gospel reminds us first of our sins; our denials, our backslidings and shortcomings. It does so to drive us to our knees in godly sorrow and repentance. This is what is says to us this morning. And, if you do not know the sorrow of sin and repentance, you will never know the joy of the resurrection gospel.
But the gospel doesn't stop at this point. It never leaves us in the hopelessness of despair. The gospel reminds the disciple of his miserable unfaithfulness. But it also carries the message of the infinite love of God which is in Christ Jesus the risen Lord.
THE LOVE OF GOD! That's the resurrection gospel. And that love is always first. First not only in time, that too, God loved us before the foundations of the world. But his love is first as to its nature and always first in relation to our love for God. The root and the power of our love for God is his own love. He doesn't love us because we love him. He doesn't love us because he foresaw that we would love him. Freely, sovereignly, for his own name's sake God loved us.
This certainly means--and how Peter can testify to this--that our love is never more than a faint reflection of his own sovereign love in us. Indeed! Herein is love, NOT that we loved God, but that he loved us.
How wonderful that love of God is! It is the love that sent Jesus to be the covering for our sins. It's the love that seeks until it finds us, the love that works by irresistible grace until it makes us beloved children. God's love never fails!
Thank God for that! We need not look down on Peter as he denies his Lord. We do it too, a thousand times over, in far easier circumstances. Do we fearlessly confess Jesus' name or are we silent? Is it not a denial of the Lord when we neglect his word preached in the church? When our lives are consumed with a striving for the perishing pleasures and treasures of this world; are we not denying Jesus? In these and countless more ways we're saying in effect, "I don't know Jesus of Nazareth." Where would we be if our love had to be first before Jesus could love us? We'd be in the depths of despair! There would be no Easter joy. Thank God for the gospel of his love. It's what Peter needed. It's what we need as well!
What a wonderful message the women must bring! Tell my disciples and Peter. Tell my disciples to be sure! But also be sure to tell Peter of the resurrection. Had the message simply been to the disciples, Peter may well have concluded that it wasn't for him. Now there's no doubt. "And Peter." Peter denied me; Peter has no worth or merit. But Jesus remembered, and Jesus does not fail. Arising from the dead, the Lord instructs the angel, tell my disciples and be sure to give Peter my love. He needs that!
What a marvelous word of comfort. And, how we need it. There are times in our lives when our sins appear so great, our transgression so deliberate, our failures so numerous; times when we wouldn't dare includeourselves in the company of the redeemed. In those terrible moments we ask, how can the Lord love a wretch like me?
The comfort of the resurrection gospel is not meant just for Peter. It's for every one of us burdened under the guilt of our sin. It's for every sorrowing soul this morning. Jesus says, tell them!
What comfort there is for Peter! Notice, Jesus doesn't call him Simon, but Peter. Though by nature you deny me, by grace you are Peter, the rock!
And the message is, the Lord is risen. Tell them and tell Peter I am alive forever. Sin and death are swallowed up in the victory of the resurrection.
Tell them, and Peter, and all of God's sorrowing children today. There's no more sin, no more sorrow, no more death. There's only life! I am risen and I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live. And he that lives and believes in me shall never die!
Believest thou this?
Prof. Robert Decker (Wife: Marilyn)
Ordained: October 1965
Pastorates: Doon, IA - 1965; South Holland, IL - 1969; Professor at the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1973
Emeritus: 2006Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Robert_Decker
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